Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcolm was initially written out of Jurassic Park by screenwriter David Koepp, until Steven Spielberg insisted the character needed to appear.
Ian Malcolm was a major character in both the novel and film versions of Jurassic Park, and Jeff Goldblum’s iconic portrayal of the character is well-remembered even 30 years after the film’s release. However, if not for the genius of Jeff Goldblum and the intervention of director Steven Spielberg, Malcolm might not have made it to the big screen. In an interview with the podcast Script Apart, screenwriter David Koepp said that he initially cut Ian Malcom out of the script — only for Spielberg to immediately say they needed to put him back in.
When reading Michael Crichton’s Jurrasic Park, Koepp said that he was put off by Malcolm’s long monologues about scientific theories. He told Speilberg that he couldn’t find a way to fit a character like that into a movie. However, before even reading the original script, Spielberg told Koepp that he’d have to figure out a way to make Ian Malcolm work onscreen.
The reason that Spielberg gave for wanting Ian Malcolm was straightforward and to the point: he had Jeff Goldblum read the dialogue for the character straight from the book, and he was perfect for the part. It seems that Spielberg knew that Jeff Goldblum’s performance would be integral to the film’s success, so Koepp faced a difficult challenge — he needed to take the pages of high-concept monologues about chaos theory and make them work on film.
As fans of the 1993 film can attest, the result was a stripped-down, but very effective, summary of the ideas behind chaos theory — made all the more charming by Jeff Goldblum’s enthusiastic but awkward performance. Whether it was Goldblum’s delivery of the iconic line “life… finds a way” or his hilarious performance attempting to explain chaos theory that ended with him alone in an automated car after everyone else left, the character stole the show in a way that altered the entire future of the franchise.
The effect of Jeff Goldblum’s performance cannot be overstated. In Michael Crichton’s original novel, Ian Malcom eventually died from the injuries caused by the T Rex — a fate that Malcolm didn’t share in the film. After Goldblum’s character became popular with audiences, Crichton chose to retcon Malcolm’s death in the sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park — leading to Jeff Goldblum once again playing the character once the follow-up novel was (loosely) adapted to film.
Unfortunately for Jeff Goldblum lovers, Ian Malcolm was absent from Jurassic Park 3, along with the first two Jurassic World films. It wasn’t until Jurassic World Dominion that Ian Malcolm made a return, letting audiences once again revel in Goldblum’s dramatic stylings. However, since Jurassic World Dominion appears to be the final installment in the decades-long franchise, we probably won’t get to see Goldblum take up the mantle of the eccentric mathematician again.
Thankfully, even though the Jurassic Park series is over and done with, there are still plenty of Jeff Goldblum shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. After appearing in Asteroid City later this month, he’s set to appear in They Shot the Piano Player later this year. He will also play the Wizard in Wicked next year.